Sugar High Friday, or Long-Distance Ginger-Molasses Cookies for Kate
More often than not, Orangette is just a fancy cover for what might be more appropriately titled “The Molly-and-Her-Friends Show,” or “What We Ate, How Ridiculous We Were, and How Much We Adore Each Other Because of and/or Despite Our Ridiculousness.” Lately, however, it’s been a little quieter than usual around here. A principal cast member is missing, and that would be Kate—she of the pointy red heels, long-distance bike rides, winning-hearts-and-minds cakes, broken French, early-morning bread-baking, gin and tonics on the 18th floor, mussels with crabs, and the vacuum cleaner with a hip-hop low-ride shag setting.
About three weeks ago, Kate packed up nearly all of her worldly possessions and jetted off to India on a six-week business trip. When not slaving away, she’s petting elephants outside her hotel (“They are so leathery and sweet and misty-eyed and hUGE!”) and pounding the pavement in her practical but less chic Easy Spirit heels. She’s having coffee in a “pre-independence coffee shop—beautiful wood, leather, simple tables, white long apron on lanky legs and dust swirling in the sun—with dusty clientele sipping their excellent coffee and milk, discussing politics and religion for hours.” And she’s running in a park that’s “beautiful and enormous, with trees dropping pools of flowers that perfume everything and make it look as though brightly colored light is pouring up through the ground at the base of each tree.” Now, certainly, all of this is very nice, and it’s lovely to live vicariously through her letters. But really, it’s not okay.
There’s no one, for instance, to make sure that I’m getting my weekly quota of whipped cream, and there is no vacuum to borrow, low-ride or otherwise. Though Kate left me with custody of her Otis Redding CD and the remains of a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, cocktail hour is somehow lacking. And my visits to Victrola Coffee—where we’ve been known to stage riots if the outrageously delicious Macrina ginger-molasses cookies are sold out—are much less gossipy, much more productive, and no fun at all. If this continues, you may soon find “The Molly-and-Her-Friends Show” shelved with the dramas, rather than the comedies. I may also get very skinny and very sober.
But you know me better than that. Rather than mope and starve, I bake. Last Monday, in honor of Kate’s 26th birthday, I gave myself The Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook, which happens to hold within its very pretty covers the recipe for our coveted cookies. That night, there was no drama and there were no riots, and instead there were gin and tonics and ginger-molasses cookies—dark and spicy, cakey and buttery, with a crisp, sugar-coated edge.
Though perhaps better dipped in milk than in Bombay (Sapphire), they filled my apartment with a perfume strong, delicious, and exotic enough to, I’m sure, be confused with that of the loveliest flowering tree in a park in Bangalore. Soon, Kate can tell me for herself.
Happy (belated) birthday, ma petite!
Adapted from Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook: Favorite Breads, Pastries, Sweets & Savories
When I e-mailed Kate to tell her that I’d bought this cookbook, she replied, “Jesus, you’re adorable. I’m going to have to take a week off and lock myself indoors with it.” And with good reason: Macrina Bakery produces some of the most delicious cookies, crostatas, and breads (especially challah and baguettes) in the city. These cookies may look down-home, but with a kick of pungent molasses and piquant ginger, they’re really very sophisticated.
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
½ cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature (preferably a non-trans-fat brand such as Spectrum)
6 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups light brown sugar (I used muscovado for its extra perfumey-ness)
2 tsp peeled and grated ginger
1/3 cup molasses
½ cup granulated sugar (I used unrefined cane sugar)
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves, and salt, and mix with a whisk to evenly blend. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl and with electric beaters, cream the shortening, butter, and brown sugar until smooth and pale in color. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add the ginger and molasses, and mix to blend well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
Using a rubber spatula, fold half of the flour mixture into the wet mixture. After the first half is incorporated, add the remaining flour, and continue folding gently until all of the flour has been absorbed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. [At this point, the dough can hold for up to 4 days.]
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone liner. Pour the granulated sugar into a pie pan or shallow bowl.
When the dough is solid and cool enough to handle without horrible sticking, scoop it out of the bowl and roll it into balls a scant 2 inches in diameter. Toss each of the balls gently in the sugar, and then place them on the baking sheet (you should be able to fit eight on a single sheet), leaving 3 inches between each ball. Bake cookies on the center rack of the oven for 15-17 minutes, until golden brown and slightly puffed. Let cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes before transferring to a rack. Repeat with two more sheets of cookies.
Yield: About 22 cookies.